Vodka has a long history in Eastern Europe, with both Russia and Poland claiming to have invented the drink. The name stems from the Russian word “voda” meaning water or “woda” in Polish. The first documented production of vodka dates back to the ninth century.
During the Middle Ages the distilled liquor was used mainly for medicinal purposes. The mid fifteenth century saw the appearance of pot stills in Russia and by the next century production had grown to such an extent that taxation was introduced. Vodka became the national drink of Russia, Poland and Finland.
The aristocracy was allowed to distill their own vodka on their estates and many of the flavoured vodka recipes date back to these families. Cheaper vodka was made by commercial distilleries, which were often government owned (production became a state monopoly in Russia in 1894). After the Russian revolution a number of vodka makers emigrated, taking their recipes with them. One of these was Pierre Smirnoff, who tried to revive his brand in Paris somewhat unsuccessfully. Then he moved to the USA and sold his recipe to an entrepreneur who opened a vodka distillery in Connecticut. By the 1950’s vodka’s popularity was on the rise and it has continued to grow in world markets to the extent that it is now produced in a great many countries.
Although there are many vodkas flavoured with ingredients like fruits, and even coffee and peppers, it is the clear neutral spirit with no discernible flavour, which is drunk with mixers, that has led the growth in demand.
Vodka is defined in the European union as a “spirits drink produced by either rectifing ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin or filtering it through activated charcoal so that the organoleptic characteristics of the raw materials are selectively reduced”.
Vodka is prepared from neutral spirit which generally is derived from grain or molasses, like the neutral spirit used for gin. There was a history of making vodka from potatoes in Eastern Europe, but while potatoes, may still be used to a small extent, they are considered to be an inferior source of starch for spirit production.
The key processing step in converting neutral spirit into vodka is charcoal filtration. The filtration, the purpose of which is to remove any remaining flavour compounds, is achieved by passing diluted spirit (usually in the range 55 – 77% abv) through a series of eight to twelve cylindrical filter tanks giving a dwell time of about eight hours. One of the filters will be repacked with fresh activated charcoal each day so the beds are constantly being replenished. A cheaper but less effective batch process simply steeps the spirit in tanks containing charcoal.The charcoal can vary between coarse granules (up to 15 mm) and powdered types depending on whether the filtration is in continuous columns or batch tanks.
Analytically a vodka of acceptable quality shows only traces of propanol and ethyl acetate, with all other congeners undetectable.
After filtration the spirit requires further dilution before bottling. The quality of water used here, and prior to filtration, is important as it is essential that it is clean and odourless. Most water used is demineralised though this is largely to avoid the appearance of a film of salts around the bottle or glass, which may appear as the alcohol evaporates.
There is no maturation required, so like gin the period between processing cereals and drinking can be very short.
Tequila is made from the fermentation and distillation process of the head of Agave tequilana Weber azul. It was originally a drink for some of the poorest people in Mexico before it became popular among wealthy people.
Grupo José Cuervo was founded 251 years ago in 1758 making it the oldest of the three largest Tequila companies.
Sauza and José Cuervo are the two largest players in the tequila market. Together, they produce 47% of tequila, and they account for 60% of total tequila exports from Mexico.
By 1870, people in the United States and Europe were drinking tequila.The European Union signed the Denomination of Origin in 1997.
First they cut off the leaves from the blue agave plant, separating the piña.
Then they crushes the piña in half, prior to cooking in a steam-heated- brick oven or in a stainless steel autoclave.
After cooking for 1.5-3 days, the blue agave juice has been converted from a complex carbohydrate into a simple sugar that can be digested by yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).Fermented blue agave juice is placed in stainless steel boilers for distillation.Tequila(distillate) is stored and aged in oak barrels.